European Commission logo
English English
CORDIS - EU research results

Collaborative Agri-food Chains: Driving Innovation in Territorial Food Systems and Improving Outcomes for Producers and Consumers

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - COACH (Collaborative Agri-food Chains: Driving Innovation in Territorial Food Systems and Improving Outcomes for Producers and Consumers)

Reporting period: 2020-11-01 to 2022-04-30

Small-scale farmers and food producers are often in a weak position in the value chain. They lack bargaining power, face barriers to accessing markets, and struggle to achieve a fair income. At the same time, due to growing public awareness of the environmental crisis, and the rise of diet-related ill-health, many consumers want to conveniently access high quality, healthy and sustainable foods. As such, many new consumer-driven opportunities for farmers to access markets are now available. Within this context, COACH aims to facilitate collaboration between farmers, consumers, local governments and other actors to ‘scale up’ short agri-food chains. These will rebalance farmers’ position, create win-wins for producers and consumers and drive innovation in territorial food systems. The project has 5 objectives. First, it develops a ‘Living Library’ of 32 emblematic good practice examples demonstrating how farmers can access consumer-driven opportunities to improve their incomes and rebalance their position in food chains. Second, it delivers a knowledge-based suite of activities to support farmers and small operators to access information on consumer demand and improve their capacity to connect with consumers. Third, it provides new insights and guidance on the costs and margins for each link in the supply chain, demonstrating opportunities for improved incomes for farmers and small operators and reduced costs for intermediaries. Fourth, it designs a ‘farm-to-fork procurement toolkit’ for public authorities in order to improve sharing of experience and help them design appropriate tenders for healthy and fresh food supplied by small-scale producers and to support farmers to know how to access these opportunities. Fifth, it maximises the impact of the project’s activities through effective communication and dissemination including policy engagement in order to create a more enabling environment for collaborative agri-food chains.
The first objective of the project has been achieved and the Living Library has been launched. It hosts 34 emblematic good practice case studies, known as ‘beacons’. Users can search the library to find real-world examples of short food chains, civic food initiatives and public procurement initiatives. They can search thematically, according to different ‘spotlight’ topics such as ‘innovative governance’ or ‘equity and accessibility’. A full ‘spotlight analysis’ report is also available. Work has also begun on our knowledge-based suite of activities to support small-scale farmers and improve their capacity to connect with consumers (second objective). A highlight of the reporting period was an open-air Bread Festival held in Georgia. One of three planned consumer facing events, the festival attracted 4 – 5,000 visitors and enabled producers to promote short food chains and showcase traditional products, notably heritage wheat and bread varieties. Other key highlights were multi-actor dialogues, hosted by the municipalities of Copenhagen (Denmark) and Merano (Italy). Over 100 participants including farmers, restaurateurs, a parent group and local authority procurement officials gathered at these two events to discuss and develop strategies to support collaborative short food chains and territorial food systems. Our plans for an International Knowledge Exchange event are underway and our Coaching and Mentoring Programme is set to launch. In relation to our third objective, we have developed a novel methodology to measure economic and non-economic costs and margins for different actors at different stages of the value chain. Analysis showed that, by participating in collaborative short food chains, producers are able to achieve more stable and direct relationships with consumers. Whilst they often command higher prices for their products, they also have additional costs to cover, such as labour, transport/logistics, processing and marketing. Our fourth objective, the procurement toolkit will be delivered in the project’s second half, and our fifth objective regarding communications, dissemination and impact is well underway with strategies in place and foundations laid for a range of outputs including practice abstracts, policy briefs, academic publications, films and animations.
COACH is making progress beyond the start of the art by delivering results and impact in three key areas. First, by developing tailor-made and practical support to set up innovative supply chains creating win-wins for producers and consumers, including through examples of good practice. Our Living Library provides good practice examples, but importantly, also illustrates challenges and shares stories of innovation. In terms of our ways of working, we have tried to go beyond the state of the art; hence beacons are not ‘passive’ case studies, but are active participants and our participatory approach means that the results of the project are tailor-made to the needs of actors working to develop collaborative short food chains. In this way, the project is able to amplify issues which have hitherto been under-explored in relation to collaborative short food chains – notable aspects include equity and social inclusion and innovative governance. Moreover, our bespoke coaching and mentoring programme will support participating beacons to address self-defined goals relating to setting up innovative supply chains. We hope it will provide an important model of knowledge exchange and personal growth which is highly relevant to the question of ‘scaling up/out’ short food chains. Second, we are integrating the needs of primary producers and consumers in a hands-on approach in particular by minimising margins taken by intermediaries. The methodology we have developed for assessing costs and margins can help farmers to assess costs and benefits, and where they originate from. Already, the participants in testing this methodology have reported how they acquired more knowledge and consciousness about the many aspects of their activity; they have a better understanding of costs and benefits obtained by participating in collaborative short food chains in comparison with their own benchmark, and have started a process of self-assessment of their activity on social and environmental aspects. By the project end, we will have converted the results of the analysis into a suite of learning tools, visual guides and training activities to reach not only the participating beacons but also a wider audience. Third, we are improving the sharing of experience between contracting authorities on tendering healthy and fresh food, with a view to connecting consumers with producers in a mutually beneficial way. We have started doing this through a series of ‘multi-actor dialogues’ and ‘encounters’ to bring together public procurement officials and small-scale farmers or their organisations, so that mutual understanding of the challenges and opportunities can be improved. There is currently a great deal of interest in the role of public sector procurement in delivering sustainable and healthy diets, and our project is bringing an important focus on the opportunities for small-scale farmers to access this market, especially through collaborative initiatives. Dedicated drop-in clinics for public procurement will feature as part of our coaching and mentoring programme. All this activity is feeding in to the project’s farm-to-fork procurement toolkit.
Nyíregyházi Kosár Közösség Beacon - Hungary
ConServe Project Beacon - Italy
COACH Project Logo